When I was young, I despised Earl Grey tea. It used to be a flowery, acidic cup of nastiness which my mum inexplicably enjoyed. Now I’ve grown up a little bit however, it’s not quite the abomination that I once thought. In fact, I don’t mind a cup of it every now and then as a change to my usual Assam or Ceylon.
Still, I hadn’t planned on trying a loose leaf Earl Grey, not at this point on my tea adventure anyway. I have been mainly supping my way through teas that are new to me; Yunnan, Masala Chai, Oolong, and the like. It wasn’t too high up on my ‘to taste’ list as I thought I already knew what was on offer. That was until Adagio Tea very kindly (or accidentally) included a sample of their Earl Grey Moonlight with my latest order! This possible act of kindness meant that, all of sudden, Earl Grey was a high priority so I decided to do a bit of research into the regal sounding tipple, and give it a try sharpish.
So what’s with the name anyway? It’s always something I’ve heard and never questioned, I’d just assumed it was named after a posh guy who loved his tea. Digging a little deeper though, it turns out that former Prime Minister Charles Earl Grey traveled to China on a diplomatic mission in 1830. In return for all his efforts and good work, the Chinese people rewarding him with a special tea recipe so he could recreate the flavoursome beverage back in Britain.
A nice story isn’t it? But sadly, a complete lie.
Apart from the fact that black tea (or red tea in China) is drunk far less than other types of tea in China, the story really falls down when it turns out that Earl Grey never once set foot in the country! Unlike the varying stories of how the tea got its moniker, the recipe for a true Earl Grey tea has remained unchanged since its inception. A black tea infused with bergamot oil to give it a floral and citrus twist.
This particular Earl Grey is a take on the classic and includes natural vanilla and cream flavouring to soften and sweeten the black tea, and also blue cornflowers which, above anything, made it look pretty damn beautiful.
Without further ado, I popped the kettle and added a generous spoonful of the tea to my infuser. After a few minutes of steeping, the tea was ready for tasting.
The flavours that I had once deplored were there, the unmistakable taste of the bergamot with its fruity and flowery finish were apparent and very enjoyable to my now adult (term used loosely) palate. In place of the usual astringency from the black tea though was a sweet vanilla finish which softened the tea, making it highly enjoyable and easy to drink.
It was a mellowness that I didn’t usually associate with an Earl Grey, and one that I welcomed with open arms. Both refreshing and comforting, it is certainly a tea that I could see myself drinking again and again. Not bad for a freebie either!
Are you partial to a spot of Earl Grey? Have you ever tried a twist on a classic? Please leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
Ps. Just a quick one to tell you all that I now have a Facebook page. It’ll have links to all my latest posts as well as news and other little bits and bobs that you might find interesting. There’s a link in the footer if you want to check it out!